HL Deb 30 July 1897 vol 51 cc1573-6

Order for Third Reading read.

Clause 5,— POWERS OF CONTRIBUTION BY LOCAL AUTTIORITIES. The London Council, the Middlesex Council, and any local authority may, jointly or severally, make contributions in aid of such purchase of such amounts and upon such terms and conditions as they may respectively think fit, and may enter into and carry into effect any agreements with the District Council with respect to such contribution. Provided that any contribution by the Middlesex Council shall not exceed five thousand pounds.


moved to add at the end of the clause,— Provided that, notwithstanding any such byelaws, the said open space may, in time of national or local emergency, be occupied and used for military purposes in such manner as the officers commanding Her Majesty's force may deem necessary. For some time it had been usual for the War Department to claim in private Bills, in which power was taken to make bye-laws controlling the use of open spaces, that a provision should be inserted that nothing in those bye-laws should have the effect of preventing the occupation of the spaces in question by the military in time of national or local emergency. But he could not explain too clearly that the War Department did not claim a general right to use spaces of this kind for military purposes; they only claimed the right to use the spaces when the circumstances were altogether of a special character. He thought a power of this kind was desirable in the interest of the public, because, if it be assumed that the presence of troops was necessary, it was surely desirable that those troops should occupy open spaces of this kind, and should not be kept in the streets or quaratered in public or private buildings. He admitted that the Amendment was moved at the very last moment in the progress of the Bill through Parliament. This Bill was not announced in November, and was, however, introduced at late as May 18 of the present year, the Standing Orders being suspended for that purpose. It was under those circumstances that the point escaped notice.


thought the noble Lord was not quite fair upon the promoters of this Bill in moving this Amendment on the very last stage of its passage through Parliament. The noble Lord claimed to exercise, apparently, very wide powers over all these open spaces, but he ventured to think that if these powers were required, which he did not dispute, it would be desirable that they should be given by a public Act. The Bill merely meant that the ownership of this ground, which was private ground, was transferred to certain public bodies, and was to be kept in its natural state for ever. The promoters viewed the Amendment with considerable disapproval. He would venture to suggest that, as in this case at any rate the power sought could not he of any serious importance, the noble Lord should not at this stage press his Amendment on the House.


said the Amendment was very unusual and extraordinary. When there was a case of real national difficulty he could understand that there was a necessity for the Executive to quarter their troops wherever they liked, and the words "national emergency" had been used, he believed, in one of the Army Acts as meaning in case of war. Local emergency, however, would mean nothing. The county of London, the county of Middlesex, and the urban district of Hornsey had bought this park for the benefit of the private neighbourhood, and they had taken the greatest possible trouble that everything should be kept in its natural state. If an officer in charge of Her Majesty's forces were to have this power, it might be construed to mean any colonel commanding Volunteers at Hornsey, and no indication was given as to the restoration of the park to its original shape, or as to compensation. He hoped the noble Marquess would withdraw his Amendment.


appealed to the noble Marquess not to press the Amendment. A considerable time had elapsed since the Bill was introduced, and if the War Office intended to put anything into the Bill he thought they might have done so at an earlier stage.


said the view he entertained was that the noble Marquess already possessed the power which it was the object of the Amendment to give him. In times of national emergency salus populi suprema lex. He did not feel the difficulty expressed by his noble and learned Friend in regard to the local emergency, because a local emergency was only a question of smaller degree, and in the case of a serious riot, or anything of that sort, it might be necessary to occupy such a place as this park. He had not the smallest doubt in the world, however, that the power already existed, and, that being the case, he thought the Amendment would naturally excite jealousy. He would suggest to his noble Friend that he should not press his Amendment.


said he could not admit the force of some of the criticisms that had been opposed to this Amendment. The provision was already to be found in a considerable number of Bills that had been passed through Parliament during the last few years. In the case of the London parks even more stringent powers were conferred by law on the military authorities. He was bound to admit, however, that the time at which this Amendment was proposed was later than he could have wished, and he was also inclined to believe, from what fell from the noble Chairman of Committees, that the local circumstances in this case were not such as to make it of very great importance that they should have this power. The reason why they were inclined to press for it was because if they did not do so in all cases they found it very much more difficult to press for it in those cases in which it was really of moment for them to have it. He was quite ready to respond to the appeal of the Chairman of Committees, on the understanding that they did not recede from their general position that these rights should when necessary be claimed by the War Department.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.